Part the One Hundred Twenty Fifth: Close-Hauled from Tortuga
The crack of the jib sail filling with wind brought a cheer from the crew of the Raging Gale, her bow rising with the breeze she caught.
Hope watched the bow hang for a spell over the waves, as though the ship were opening her arms to the wide sea before her as they sailed west past the point at Ringot.
“My compliments to Mister Folard,” called Abigail as she eyed the sail. “The new bowsprit holds so well, ye’d never know we lost her in action.”
Hope watched as she handed the tiller off to Campbell and came to the fore starboard corner of the quarterdeck. “Full sail!” she called.
“Sharp to those lines!” Osei called up the foremast.
“Mister Herbert, the pennant!” Abigail called up to him.
“She be set,” he replied as he pointed up to her, the winds whipping her towards the starboard side of the bow.
Hope divided her attention between the pennant and captain, watching her reaction to it as the wind stiffened the flag. She was like a cat watching a mouse in the corner of the room, waiting for it to come closer…
“Hard to starboard!” Abigail suddenly called before she leapt for the tiller, making sharp pulls to nudge the Gale right with every correction. The men moved the yards on the foresails and main topsail to stay with the wind, giving the mainsail as much help as they could to keep her up to speed.
At first the Gale fought each correction, proudly insisting that its westward heading was the proper course with every push on the tiller. She alone refused to follow the decision of the parley held on decks before leaving Tortuga, believing that the course she was on was better than the one the crew elected.
But despite her resistance, she gave in to the will of the pirates. Slowly, she yielded to the stroking of her rudder by Abigail, the grip of the men on her lines, and soon she followed the course placed upon to the north-east away from Hispaniola.
With the ship now on its new tack, slower than before but heeding its commands, the hands on the lines lessened. Those no longer needed to right the ship took up other necessary positions, the guns and the decks and such.
Charity leaned against the mainmast next to where Hope was taking up position to play. “Incroyable,” she said, “I had never seen such resistance from a ship to her crew.”
“It was certainly a task,” replied Hope. “One might think that the ship thought better of our wanting to go to the Mona Passage.”
“Ne soyez pas fous! You’ll next be saying that the ship knows something we don’t!”
Hope didn’t respond to that comment, but wondered if the Raging Gale did in fact know better than the crew, and had made a futile effort to avoid a bad fate…
All content Copyright © 2009 James Ryan